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Goodbye, Coffee

December 5, 2011

Some people (scientists, I believe) say that your body regenerates every seven years. That just happened to me, like, in November. I am an entirely new human being.

How do I know this? Well, I’ve made a very unsettling discovery in the past few weeks: Coffee makes me nuts.

It didn’t used to.

It all started when I was driving to work one morning (so much easier than spending all morning with two fighting toddlers, let me tell you) and I was listening to a podcast with the maker of the new HBO show, Enlightened. He was talking about his nervous breakdown that led to him creating a series about the importance of mindfulness. I was super interested in this idea until I noticed that as he talked, I was getting all jumpy. He was talking fast, too fast. He was making me really nervous, in fact. I had to turn off the podcast and never listen to him again.

Life went on as usual, kind of.

Then there was another morning when I was driving to work (so much easier than spending all morning with two fighting toddlers, let me tell you) and I was listening to a podcast with Jill Lepore, writer of a recent article in the New Yorker about the history of the birth control movement. I was super interested, because I think birth control is the best invention since the wheel. As she talked, though, I was getting all jumpy. She couldn’t seem to catch her breath, nor could I. Her voice was making me really nervous, in fact. I had to turn off the podcast and never listen to her again.

Was I allergic to podcasts?


Was I a complete misanthrope?


Was I guzzling coffee on my 40 minute drive?

Ding, ding! Yes. Therein lay the problem.

But coffee couldn’t really be bad for me. Doesn’t it lower women’s risk of depression? Isn’t it the most soothing of warm drinks, evident by the tall, warm paper cups everyone’s always carrying around with them? It’s pure medicine. It has to be. Right?

There was a time in my life—a long time, in fact—that I didn’t drink coffee. It tasted rather disgusting. Yet in college, I was slowly drawn in by the coffee mystique. A friend of mine worshipped at the altar of Folgers. Her hands shook when I talked to her. She was an excellent comic-book-maker and claimed that all professors called her “brilliant.” (It was rather strange, how they all used that particular word.)

Coffee had such a dazzling aura. There were so many romantic songs about it, so many sitcoms where people held it on the way to complete very important business. How else was I to know I was an adult, an independent thinker, if I wasn’t holding chocolate brown liquid in a thick mug between my hands in some chic cafe, talking about the most important things in the world, like everyone else? How could I ever consider myself a writer if I didn’t stay up all night with a cigarette in one hand, a pot of coffee in the other, my hair growing frizzier as I typed on a long sheet of paper about a wicked cross country journey that never happened?

When I got my first job, I decided that a cup of French Vanilla roast on my way in to school was the perfect preparation (read: treat) for a long day’s work ahead of me. It helped that it was sweet. I grew more discriminating in my coffee taste, and by the time I had kids, I went to bed anticipating the magic of those first sips in the morning. (I couldn’t look forward to sleep, for godsakes.) Drinking coffee in the morning made me a part of the world, a member of a diverse swath of human beings who must drink or suffer severe headaches by mid-afternoon. Ours was a very intimate connection.

By some strange synchronicity of the cosmos, my third coffee maker in four years broke at the same time I started to understand why some people recoil in fear when they hear the word “caffeine” in the same way others react to the image of dirty syringes lying next to a gutter. I remembered how my mother drank coffee daily until one day, she put the coffee maker away for good. At some point in the last year, I became one of those women who gasps and tenses her shoulders when her husband orders a regular coffee after dinner at a restaurant. “Are you sure?” I ask, my eyes like craters. “Not decaf?”

I am a girl who likes to fit in, but am now suddenly on the fringe.

While still in love with the coffee mystique, I recognize that my body gets quite pissed off every time I drink more than a third of a cup. My sinuses get all puffy and my heart gets all nasty, and all the nerves in my arms and legs seem like they want to run right out the door.

So I’ve been doing a very British thing. I’m drinking English Breakfast tea with—gulp—milk. I know. I know.

It actually tastes quite good with a homemade scone. (Though I rarely make any of those.)

Goodbye, Coffee. We were good while we lasted.

(Cue the violin.)

Perhaps we’ll meet again one day for longer than a two-minute tryst.

First wedding anniversary

Saturday morning circa Old Days.

French visage in French hotel. C'est magnifique!

(And all of those pictures were before children! Sheesh.)

Top image: “Coffee” by Maxime via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.




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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean December 5, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s bad for me. It makes me shaky and on edge. But it’s good poison. Delicious, warm poison.


Jana December 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

See, I think I’m already too edgy…. (Just ask the husband.)


Cathy December 5, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I’ve become quite sensitive to caffeine but I do love my coffee. There are some types that seem to make me more jittery than other. Also, my nerves in their current state don’t seem to tolerate much more stimulation. Still, I would despise giving up my morning coffee.


Kate December 6, 2011 at 1:13 am

You may gasp (or not) but roughly 9 years ago, I gave up all caffeine. Every form. It sucked. But not as much as giving up sugar, which was short lived. Or dairy, which lasted only a few years. Then… well, I slipped into old habits. I grew up with tea (my dad is in love with England and raised us girls to appreciate tea). But things kept changing, and suddenly I had two kids to run after and then I had to get one to school by 8 every morning. And tea didn’t cut it. Coffee. Yum. Until it made me feel awful. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with my third body snatcher. Whatever. Tea is nice. If I get around to making scones, I’ll share, okay?


Jana December 8, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I’m starting to think that I have a general issue with caffeine. Even the tea is making me feel a little bzzzzz….


coeliquore December 6, 2011 at 7:03 am

I only have one cup of coffee, in the mornings I work, to help me wake up and be able to do all the things I must. But the rest of the day I have tea: with lemon, with a cloud of milk, whatever. I feel better when I don´t drink coffee ( and I confess I was an addict to it once)


Liz S December 6, 2011 at 8:26 am

I feel you. I go in spurts. A couple of years ago coffee starting making me nauseous, so I switched to tea for a while, which was fine (I like the Bigelow Constant Comment tea as being comparable to a weak cup of coffee). Now I’m back to coffee, but I’ve cut down to one small travel mug per day and I don’t usually have any other caffeine at all.

I have a feeling that if I simply had one small mug of really good, black coffee it would be worlds better nutritionally (no cream or sugar), but coffee that good can get EXPENSIVE, am I right? Enjoy your tea!


Tiffany December 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

Best of luck to you…I can’t imagine giving up coffee!! But I wouldn’t like to feel all jumpy either…


Justine December 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I am sensitive to caffeine so I allow myself one 12 – to 16-ounce cup a day. If not, I get pretty cranky. Especially when the caffeine headache kicks in.

But it’s really the act of drinking it, to kick off the rest of my day, that draws me to it, rather than the taste itself, although I am rather picky about it. I love everything about coffee when I drink it in the morning. The rest of the day? I get jittery or I lose sleep, so I try to avoid it.

Still, I can’t fathom giving it up altogether. Go you!


Jana December 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Believe me, I don’t want to give it up! My body seems not to be giving me a choice. I’ll experiment and see if I can fit it in here or there. I really miss it, though. Those morning sips were something I dearly looked forward to!


Kimberly December 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm

You are adorable! I’m anxiously waiting for the moment I can push this new little one out so that I can indulge in four things guilt-free: coffee, cookie dough, sushi, and bourbon. Most likely not all at once, but we’ll see based on how labor goes. ;)

Good luck adjusting to life in the decaf lane! Have you tried other brands? Maybe switch to a mild home-brew or do half regular and half decaf?


Finola December 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Do you have any idea why this reaction? Does decaf do the same thing?
I think I would die without coffee to be honest, and it isn’t even the caffeine. Just the warm comfort of a cup in hand.


Leslie December 15, 2011 at 9:22 am

I’ve always loved tea – like, in the afternoon. But I left coffee for it four months ago. And I take it with milk AND a little sugar. I’ve been on the road a lot for work this fall, and the hotel mornings in small towns become coffee intermissions (I just can’t do tea in a styrofoam cup), but that’s my limit. I don’t get jumpy, but it just doesn’t feel good anymore. Oy! Teatime.


Suzanne Grey January 30, 2012 at 2:53 am

I can ‘t resist coffee!


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